Charleston Staycation


Sullivan's Island beach at sunset

While we often yearn for a getaway from our lives in Charleston, this amazing city offers many remarkable sites and an abundance of ways to spend a lovely weekend. Before booking your next trip abroad or driving across the country, try returning to your roots and engaging in the best our city has to offer for a weekend. Here are some of the best ways to spend a staycation in Charleston:

Drayton Hall

Drayton Hall is framed by gorgeous alleys of oak trees

No staycation in Charleston is complete without a visit to one of the numerous historic plantations. Of these many plantations, Drayton Hall, located on the Ashley River, is one of the best preserved and has many interesting features for visitors. On your visit to the plantation, you can first explore the plantation museum which features original pieces of furniture from the home as well as artifacts unearthed on the grounds. After experiencing the exhibits, take a tour of the plantation house which is a pristine and beautiful example of 18th century southern architecture. Around the home, experience centuries of history including bricks in the walls marked with the fingerprints of slaves. Outside of the home, you can also currently stop by an archaeological dig occurring in the basement. After the house, enjoy walking around the lush gardens, forests, and grounds surrounding the plantation. Visiting Drayton Hall is truly as essential Charleston experience.

The Gibbes Museum of Art

The Gibbes Museum of Art is located in a Beaux Arts building in the historic district of Charleston

One of the most enjoyable activities around Charleston is visiting The Gibbes Art Museum. This acclaimed institution has a wide array of art exhibits, displaying works from across centuries. Some of the permanent exhibits at the museum are 18th and 19th Century American paintings and sculpture, 20th Century American Regionalism and the Charleston Renaissance, Miniature Portraits, and Modern and Contemporary. With such a wide range of exhibits, The Gibbes is a perfect place to visit for all art lovers. Currently, there are several interesting temporary exhibits open including the beautiful water color landscapes of American painter Ogden Pleissner and the never before seen by the public water colors of Charleston Renaissance artist, Anna Heyward Taylor, from her travels to British Guiana. Another intriguing exhibit is the Betwixt and Between permanent exhibition feature the towering and majestic twig sculptures of Patrick Dougherty.

Fort Sumter

An aerial view of Fort Sumter in the Charleston harbor

A must see location on any Charleston staycation is Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the civil war were fired. Begin your journey to the fort on a beautiful ferry ride leaving from downtown Charleston, offering panoramic views over the city and surrounding rivers and islands. At the fort, tour around the ramparts of this impressive military fortification built in 1811. The fort was originally a Federal fort but was taken over by the confederacy in the first battle of the Civil War. Around the fort you can see the intact ruins of the fortress walls and giant cannons used in combat.

King Street

King Street is lined with multi-colored historic buildings

Arguably the best street in Charleston, King Street is the shopping hub of the city and offers a variety of interesting shops and restaurants. The best way to experience King Street is to visit on the second Sunday of every month when the street is blocked off from traffic and the road is buzzing with people. King Street is the perfect shopping place for those looking to shop at big name retail chains such as Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Shoppers seeking local shops and boutiques will find many choices such as such Pink Chicken and the Savannah Bee Company. Some of the most popular restaurants on King Street among locals are Mama Kims, Grouchos, and Mellow Mushroom among many others.

Patriots Point

The USS Yorktown is permanently docked in the Charleston harbor near the Ravenel Bridge

Home of the USS Yorktown, Patriot’s point is one of Charleston’s most unique and important sites. On your visit to Patriot’s Point, tour the World War II air craft carrier on site and learn about an important moment in our nation’s history. While on the ship, explore exhibits of historical planes and jets from across the nation’s history and military past. Visitors enjoy reflecting in the impressive Medal of Honor Museum. Also on site at Patriot’s Point is the Vietnam Experience Exhibit and USS Clamagore Submarine, both of which are open for exploring and touring. The submarine was commissioned in 1945 and served throughout the Cold War.


The waves crash on shore on Sullivan’s Island

Charleston is probably best known by tourists and most beloved by locals for its pristine beaches. On your Charleston staycation, visit one or more of Charleston’s most popular beaches at Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, and Folly. Each of these beaches have their own unique flare and offer a different experience. All three beaches offer an assortment of food and shopping options spanning their width, making these areas great places to visit for sun and the surf during the day and as well as fun at night. If your are looking for a beach with lots of shopping and touristy activities, visit Isle of Palms which has a buzzing main street with many businesses, playgrounds, and volleyball nets. For those seeking a more quiet beach experience, visit Sullivan’s Island which typically has fewer tourists and is full of scenic and lush nature-scapes. If you are looking for an interesting and quirky beach day, try Folly Beach which is popular for its restaurants, surfing waves, and main pier.

The Charleston Museum

The Charleston Museum features exhibits ranging from Egyptian artifacts to prehistoric fossils

The Charleston Museum, established in 1773, is one of the oldest museums in the United States. This historic institution is home to acclaimed exhibitions of historic artifacts, natural history, and decorative arts. In the museum’s exhibition of artifacts from the Charleston area, view pieces spanning thousands of years of history from Native American spearheads and pottery dating back farther than the pyramids to ceramics crafted by African slaves to historic glassware from antebellum Charleston. Interestingly, the museum’s archaeology collection also includes a small section dedicated to Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artifacts. In the natural history section, explore millions of years of Earth’s history as you wander though troves of ancient fossils and bones. Among the highlights of this exhibits are pieces of the Pelagornis, the world’s largest known flying bird, a prehistoric 18-foot crocodile, a cast of the jaws of a megalodon, and some fossils dating as far back as 300 million years. Other exhibits at the museum include The Armory, Historic Textiles, and Charleston Silver. Ultimately, the Charleston Museum has something to offer all visitors and is the perfect way to spend a rainy day in Charleston.

The Battery

Along with water views, also explore nature at The Battery in White Point Gardens

The Battery is a defensive seawall lining the southern end of the Charleston peninsula. The battery is one of Charleston’s most enjoyable areas to explore and walk around. Along this riverside promenade, you can see out over the entire Charleston harbor, where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet, and witness such sites in the distance at Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and Sullivan’s Island. Around The Battery you can also explore the adjacent White Point Gardens which feature picturesque oak trees drenched in moss and laced with foot paths. This area of Charleston is truly one of the city’s best locations and is the perfect place to enjoy a lazy afternoon or a picnic on a summer day.

The first time I visited the battery in third grade I was very disappointed to find out that it was not a tiny electrical unit”

— Rachel Maile, AMHS Senior


Hopefully these interesting locations around Charleston inspire you to explore your city and enjoy this amazing and historic town we call home.